What a great place for retirement!

Having recently turned 65, my wife and I, as well as millions of our fellow baby-boomers, are increasingly thinking about retirement and downsizing. “Active Adult Communities” or AAC’s are one of the options that have gained tremendous popularity over the past few decades, especially in areas where the climate is good. These communities are typically well planned and nicely landscaped gated communities with single story homes, active community centers, golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools, walking paths, and so on. They are full of “youngsters” over 55 with lots of energy, experience, skills and some wealth. To have a good time, they typically shop, eat, play, volunteer and invest in the local community. Also, while they do pay taxes, they don’t put kids in schools, commute to Silicon Valley or create unemployment burdens and they aren’t much of a law enforcement problem. Net-net, AAC’s represent a strong economic development diversification prospect that I believe could provide a real and significant shot of vitality into our local community.

Unfortunately, despite our great climate, if baby boomers currently living in San Benito County, like me, want that kind of retirement, they need to uproot and move out of the county because there is nothing like it here today. (Del Webb could be the beginning).

Following are some of the reasons I strongly urge our County leaders to include this valuable component of society in our General Plan update:

1. Jobs, jobs, jobs! Building a handful of good sized Active Adult Communities could add 1 or 2000 home units and create thousands of direct and indirect JOBS! In San Benito County and almost immediately!

2. Unlike EDC’s “mission impossible” which remains linked to a difficult economy, we don’t need to convince these builders to build. That’s a given, they are going to build…. We just need to convince them to build here instead of someplace else.

3. San Benito County is appealingly uncongested and beautiful and AAC’s would minimize both agricultural and environmental impacts.

4. San Benito County has location… an hour or less away from arts & culture, shopping and fine dining in Silicon Valley or Monterey as well as countless beautiful golf courses and wine regions.

5. Revitalize downtown Hollister and San Juan with retail and restaurant revenue.

6. Re-energize county and city budgets with increased tax revenues.

7. Significantly expand our local medical community and health care capabilities by growing sufficient demographic demand to justify attracting, retaining needed and vital specialty services.

8. Provide a new source of skilled and experienced volunteers for civic organizations, nonprofits and countless other community endeavors.

Flaws and Shortcomings in the Draft 2035 General Plan.

The Housing & Demographic Elements of the General Plan discuss growth expectations and related employment issues. The population aged 55 & over is depicted as shrinking in SBC while growing in other Bay Area regions. Incredibly, our Plan’s discussion of senior demographics and housing only recognizes this population as elderly, disabled and homeless. This is a huge oversight. I think of Active Adults as a 20-30 year band of retiree’s starting at about 55 years of age. As stated previously, they are still full of life, skills, energy and lots of potential to positively impact a local community in many different ways. But this important segment of our demographics and its related and significant economic benefits are not acknowledged anywhere in our planning documents. Ignoring this reality and opportunity is a major flaw.

Housing and growth projections in the Plan appear related essentially to uncontrollable Bay Area spillover demand for affordable single-family housing. It is not deliberately controlled, managed, incentivized or even desired, just tolerated as inevitable. The demand for AAC’s is rapidly growing (given the aging of millions of baby-boomers), all the major home builders know it and are actively planning for it. If several AAC’s were built here in SBC, most of these new residents and their related wealth and community benefits will be attracted from outside of SBC providing a fresh and desirable infusion of vitality.

It’s obvious that Active Adults would have a very positive impact on our local life and economy and must be included in our planning. Passively waiting and hoping that AAC development opportunities come knocking on our door is not leadership. If jobs and community vitality are truly our priorities, we need to aggressively market, invite, plan for and even incentivize this type of development now. It is also obvious that to avoid this major flaw and planning oversight we must amend our 2013 General Plan to recognize Active Adults in our demographics and incorporate appropriate goals and strategies to capture a good share of this wonderful community asset!

(The above is a summary of the letter I submitted as Public Comment on May 13, 2013, to the SBC Planning Department in response to the draft 2035 General Plan. To view my entire letter including some 18 citations from the current planning documents supporting this position, click here.)

I will be anxiously watching to see how this and other public comments are handled and how the overall General Plan amendment process unfolds. Naturally, I will also be monitoring to see what if any of these suggestions are adopted or incorporated into the Plan.

Stay tuned!